New dog law breeds confusion as animal advocates vow to fight on
With new regulations for Montreal’s dog owners now in place, lovers of pit bull-type dogs said they are still opposed to the controversial rules and worry about the confusion they can cause.
Among the worries is that the breed-specific legislation fails to adequately define what a pit bull is.
Sabrina Mignacca said she adopted her dog Ivy on Halloween in 2015 when the pup was just seven weeks old. She was initially told that Ivy was a pit bull mix, so that’s how Ivy was initially registered.
“She can have some characteristics; she can look like a pit bull,” she said. “There’s a lot of her that also doesn’t look like a pit bull. What is a pit bull, really?”
However, after the city introduced its new bylaw, she had Ivy checked at one of the city’s breed-identification clinic. The ruling: Ivy was a lab-greyhound mix.
“I was definitely really excited and relieved,” said Mignacca. “At the same time, I have another dog at home that was unable to make it to the breed ID clinic. Although I do have that paper stating he’s not a pit bull, the city can contest it, so I ended up registering him as a pit bull.”
At the time of the evaluation, Mignacca received an official certificate from the city confirming that Ivy was not, in fact, a pit bull. Mignacca says that she's photographed the certificate and keeps a copy close by in case she is stopped by animal patrollers.
While the bylaw defines a pit bull as being a dog “belonging to the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier race” or being a crossbreed of any of those races and another type of dog, it also says a pit bull could be “a dog showing several morphological traits of the races and types.”
That vagueness has Mignacca worried that Ivy could be improperly identified by one of the city’s animal inspectors.
“It’s a whole new set of problems I might be faced with, being stopped by animal control or even maybe having people complain, saying ‘Hey that pit bull isn’t muzzled,’ when she’s not a pit bull,” said Mignacca.
Several animal rights groups have taken to the courts to contest the city’s bylaw. Anne-France Goldwater is one of the attorneys working on the case.
“We’re trying to expose to the public at law the sheer ridiculousness of judging a dog by its appearance,” she said.
While Goldwater said there are good parts of the bylaw, such as mandating the use of harnesses for larger dogs, she said the lack of specifics when it comes to defining a pit bull leaves too much power in the hands of inspectors.
“You’re very dependent on the whim or bad mood of a city inspector on a given day that looks cross-eyed at your dog or at you and decided, well, that’s a pit bull-like dog,” she said.
Still, she encouraged dog owners to abide by the law until the court has a chance to rule.
A court date is expected by the end of April.
In the meantime, dog owners like Mignacca hope the city reconsiders their approach.
“I really think everything bout it is the wrong way to go about it,” she said. “We’re not really educating people or getting down to the problem.”